Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler

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Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, 1956

Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler (April 28, 1918 – September 20, 2001) was an East German journalist and host of the television show Der schwarze Kanal (German: The Black Channel) from March 21, 1960 to October 30, 1989.

Schnitzler was born in Berlin the son of German vice consul Julius Eduard von Schnitzler, scion of a Cologne banking dynasty, who had been ennobled by the state of Prussia in 1913. Karl-Eduard attended a boarding school at Bad Godesberg and joined the Sozialistische Arbeiter-Jugend youth organisation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1932. After receiving his school-leaving qualification in 1937 he began studying medicine at the University of Freiburg but later trained as a management assistant in Cologne.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Schnitzler was drafted into the Wehrmacht, but was captured by British forces in 1944 following the Battle of Normandy. After his capture, Schnitzler began to work for the Ministry of Information and the German-language wing of the BBC where his talents as a broadcaster were soon recognised. After his release in 1945 he returned to the British Zone of Allied occupied Germany and became an employee of the British controlled radio station Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) in Hamburg. He was transferred to their Cologne studios on the 1st of January 1946, where he was assigned the post of Associate Director and Head of the Politics Department. His political bias soon became apparent to his superiors and he was removed from his position in Cologne and returned to the NWDR's Hamburg offices until his eventual dismissal in 1947 being accused of spreading communist propaganda.

Schnitzler changed over to the Soviet occupation zone and worked for the Berliner Rundfunk and the Deutschlandsender program of the Rundfunk der DDR. He joined the Socialist Unity Party in 1948. During the 1950s, he contributed to a number of smaller television shows before the first broadcast of Der Schwarze Kanal on 21 March 1960. The programme was originally designed as East Germany's answer to the short-lived West German anti-Communist programme Die Rote Optik ("The Red View", ARD, 1958-1960). From 1969 on, though, Schnitzler's main antagonist in the west was Gerhard Löwenthal's "ZDF Magazin" (ZDF, 1969-1987), which focused on human rights issues in East Germany.

As host of Der Schwarze Kanal, which ran for 20 minutes every Monday night, Schnitzler edited together extracts of Western television footage and recorded caustic, virulently anti-Western commentary over it. The show was particularly derisive towards West Germany and what Schnitzler perceived as Western imperialism across the world. His vitriolic style earned him the nickname Sudel-Ede - "sully Eddy". Schnitzler joined the central committee of the Society for German–Soviet Friendship in 1978. In that same year, he also became a professor at the University of Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg.

In the course of the 1989 Wende in East Germany the Kanal was canceled. Schnitzler preempted his exclusion from the Party of Democratic Socialism by quitting and joining the German Communist Party. He published several articles in the Titanic satirical magazine, before he retired to Zeuthen, where he died of pneumonia on September 20, 2001.

An interview with von Schnitzler can be found in the book Stasiland by Anna Funder.

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